Over the years Camp Alleghany has changed in many ways (while remaining true to its mission and values, of course). What I mean about change are just changes in the way things look, where things are —changes in the map of our camp world.
One of the first programs we had at Camp Alleghany was Riding. It was a treasured part of the program that many city slickers enjoyed as their first introduction — or only chance — to do riding.
The girls always rode in the bottom field. But the first barn and stables were on the car side of the river at the left as you come up from the river. The second barn and stables were located on the road up to Twin Tulips. The girls would ride over in the shallower parts of the river to get to the bottom field and then ride back afterward to put the horses up.
The barn building – what’s left of it – remains to this day. But horse stabling and riding are no longer a part of our program for a variety of reasons.
Ranges, lodges, and good sturdy buildings
The first Rifle Range was located across from the entrance to the current Counselors’ Lodge. And the Archery Range was behind Unit 1, Senior Camp – according to the archival pictures we have.
For the first twenty or so years there was only one set of tents – where Senior Camp is now. Where Junior camp is located was a softball field, which was a favorite activity among the campers. And there was no dedicated Infirmary building back then. Instead it was an Infirmary tent.
The Dining Hall was the first building constructed. It was a two story affair – still is – and the girls ate on the first floor and had assembly, dances with Camp Greenbrier, and probably drama and dance on the second floor – currently the Junior Dining Hall.
The Dining Hall was constructed of cherry, which was very plentiful and a very solid wood. Unfortunately an insect blight in the 1930s wiped out all the cherry trees in the state of West Virginia. To this day, the Dining Hall remains very solid and only minor improvements have been made.
The current Play Hall was constructed in 1928. In its 80 plus years the floor has only been replaced once – in 1995 — and then the new floor was placed on top of the old one because the original was done so well. The old porch was replaced in the fall of 2011 because there was so much rot. But that’s a pretty good life for a well traveled porch located in a humid region near a river!
There were once two Arts & Crafts buildings. The first sat overlooking the river perhaps 50 feet upriver from where the rowboats land today. But there was a large flood in the mid 1950s that washed it away. The current Arts & Crafts building was built to replace it.
The second Arts & Crafts building sat overlooking the river just outside the Hickory Hut. When I was there from ’66-’68, half of each building was used for crafts and half for counselors. In the current Arts & Crafts building, the left half was for Senior crafts and the right half was for the Senior Camp Counselors to hang out during down time or off time.
In the Junior Crafts, the right side was for Junior Crafts and the left side was for the Junior Camp Counselors to relax.
A flood of memories
Let me tell you a story about a very rare event.
In November 1985, after two solid weeks of rain, the Greenbrier River rose to levels higher than the flood of 1918, which until that year had been the standard for flooding on the Greenbrier River. At its height that November, the river was in the Infirmary building, the Old and New Johns, the showers and dry room, Cow Bell, the Store, and Hen House. The highest level in the store was 18 inches over the lip of the Dutch doors.
There had been a piano in the current Arts & Crafts building, but the river sent it floating in the building — just like that flood scene in ‘O Brother Where Art Thou with the roll top desk— and that piano was turned to trash when all was said and done.
Likewise the Junior Crafts had a piano which was also flooded through and through and turned to trash, too. Same fate for all the furniture in there. Everything ended up in the downriver corner inside the building. The sturdy chimney at the center was part of the reason the building didn’t wash away.
It was some flood! I remember seeing a branch that was about 35 feet long that had come in a window on the upriver side facing the Hickory Hut. The floor was scrubbed clean with just some dust and a light coating of mud left behind. Everything else was gone.
There was a Coke machine on that side of the building, too, and although filled with mud and debris, I don’t think it moved at all because of it’s weight. Unfortunately, because of the damage to the foundation the building was lifted off it’s pilings during the flooding and was set down afterward off center. The building had to be removed the next spring.
So it’s not just the decision makers here who change things from time to time. Sometimes it’s Mother Nature herself who has the last word. Lucky for us she seems to do her talking in the off-season, the spring and summer, when camp’s not in session. And in those rare instances, we adapt.
Luckily, the river is usually so low that we can just walk right across it. And that’s the way we like it.
–Sam Dawson, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls